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Vancouver area realtors raise $52,000 for at-risk youth at annual gala

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Earlier this month, a group of realtors from Greater Vancouver hosted a gala that raised $52,000 to support Camp Choice BC and its August camp funding.

Over 260 realtors were in attendance at Vancouver’s Italian Cultural Centre, including the CEO of Greater Vancouver Realtors (GVR), Jeff King, and the CEO of the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA), Trevor Koot.


Gala highlights


The annual Camp Choice Gala is a cornerstone event for the organization’s fundraising. It includes sharing stories, hearing testimonials and seeing performances from teens who attended the camp and participating in a silent auction with a live auctioneer.

It was this auction that was the “standout” moment of the night, according to Phil Moore, vice chair, event organizer, facilitator and mentor at Camp Choice BC: “Myself, John Patricelli and Juliana Vallee offered four hours of (chores or) cleaning services, raising over $20,000.

These efforts are vital, as they ensure we can offer this life-changing experience to 50 to 60 youth without turning anyone away due to financial barriers.”


Phil Moore, Trevor Koot (BCREA) and Jeff King (GVR)


Vallee, who has been a part of the organization for the past two and half years and now sits on the board of directors, notes the bids started at $200 and jumped by the hundreds and then into the thousands. “Finally, a business owner jumped up and bid $20,000 which translates to sending approximately 20 youth to the camp,” she highlights. 


The leadership camp experience


Each year, the group fundraises (about $50,000-$70,000) for and hosts a one-week camp at Zajac Ranch in Mission, B.C., welcoming 50-60 youth facing challenges such as substance abuse, self-harm and underprivilege.

Every dollar is spent to maximize the positive impact on the youth served, ensuring they receive the full benefit of their experience at Camp Choice BC.

As facilitators and mentors, Moore, Patricelli and Vallee lead various sessions, providing guidance and support to both attendees and volunteer youth coaches. The program is designed to empower, inspire and transform, helping participants see beyond their current circumstances.

Each day is wrapped up with workshops and fun activities that bring out self-growth, powerful messages and opportunities to connect with others.

“These individuals have unique life situations and stories. Most of their experiences up to now have built in them emotional and rational processes that have not been serving them to choose well or receive all possible opportunities in life. There are levels of challenges they have had to face,” Patricelli, Camp Choice’s president and lead workshop facilitator, explains. “It’s about exploring their thinking process (and) opening up if they feel comfortable.”

At the end of the week, the team observes how participants have connected with each other. “In a short period of time, we notice a lightness to their smiles, a confidence we didn’t see before and a desire to return as well as continue growth. They have fun, meet new friends and build bonds that last,” says Patricelli.

Vallee agrees: “(It) allows kids to be kids and brings out and pushes them to be the best they can be. Youth come out of the camp inspired and empowered. Many who have attended stated that because of this camp, their lives have changed.”

She explains that not only are relationships built during the camp between the youth and coaches, but the relationship, mentorship and follow-up with the youth continue after it’s over.


The trio’s inspiration


Moore’s background with the Vancouver Police Department, particularly admiring the school liaison program, laid the foundation for his commitment to supporting youth at risk. “Discovering a program through PSI Seminars that brought leadership opportunities to young people from Oakland to a ranch in Napa Valley sparked the idea for Camp Choice BC.”

Patricelli describes himself as “someone whose youth (went from being) filled with wrong choices and living consequences of those choices to experiencing the power of redemption from personal mistakes … learning that at any moment one can make a choice that will also lead to success and better relationships with others.” He says this — and the higher calling he felt — is why he decided to get involved with Camp Choice.

So, alongside Patricelli and with Vallee on the board of directors, “(We) aimed to create a similar beacon of hope and leadership for youth in British Columbia,” Moore recalls.


About Camp Choice


Camp Choice was first founded in San Francisco a few years before it came to B.C. in 2016. “Over the last eight (years), the Camp Choice vision has maintained strong and the board of directors has evolved,” Patricelli says.

Camp Choice started as a non-profit organization and hosted its first leadership youth camp in 2017. After more growth and awareness, elevated fundraising (and the ability to provide tax receipts) became more essential to attract larger donations — which primarily come from realtors — it was registered as a charity in 2019.


About this year’s event and overall, Moore says, “We’re deeply grateful for the support from the realtor community, which has been instrumental in our ability to make a difference in these young lives. It should be noted that many of our volunteer camp counselors are realtors. We look forward to continuing this work, inspired by the transformations we witness each year.”

Learn more about Camp Choice BC here.


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